The Power of Habits

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Gandhi

So much of your success comes from the habits you have as a person. Often we don’t even think much about them, for instance the way you brush your teeth, or comb your hair are habits that have been established over the period of many years. Many old habits are good and they are best left the way they are, other old habits are destructive and we know this, but continue this destructive behavior. Why? Well because it is a habit and habits are hard to change. Think about a bad habit you have, maybe it is eating too much or the wrong foods, drinking alcohol, or maybe smoking. Think back, when did this behavior become a habit? Probably a long time ago and every time you repeat this behavior the habit becomes more ingrained and becomes part of  yourself. The more you repeat the behavior the stronger the habit becomes. Most of these habits have triggers, such as a cup of coffee proceeds a cigarette, or Friday night means a trip to the party store to pick up your favorite beverage.

If old habits have a hold over you because they are so ingrained and have been repeated so many times, then why is it equally as difficult to adopt a new habit? To start with it might be that your old habits are occupying so much space in your head and time on your calendar that there is no room for a new habit. Now none of what I have mentioned so far is very encouraging, but for most of us it is true. We are habitual animals by nature, and these habits provide a well known script to live out our days. We also know that by not adopting new positive habits we are stagnating. So what’s the answer here?

My advice is that there is no silver bullet, no easy solution. The only thing that works for me is you become so sick of a bad habit and it’s consequences, that you make some room for a better habit. Sometimes being sick of it is not enough, but you also need a healthy dose of fear interjected into the equation. So I’m sick to death of this stupid behavior and I am afraid of what is doing to my life. Remember I’m not talking about some silly stupid habit, but instead something life threatening. A habit that has it’s own gravitational pull, sucking you into the vortex. This isn’t something that a little will power or well intended affirmations is going to fix.

The power of the habit is immense and well your resolve is usually pretty pathetic, and you know it. If you could use self discipline or some other form of wishful thinking you probably wouldn’t have dug the hole so deep in the first place. I’ve read some people that advocate just replacing the bad habit with a new habit. Great advice Einstein, but that’s like putting a three year old up against a Champion Sumo Wrestler. An old ingrained habit has way more traction with you and cannot be replaced by the new habit of the day. I’m not saying anything you don’t know here, because like me you tried this mismatch and observed the consequences.

When you get to that point where the pain caused by the old habit far exceeds the pleasure, you might be ready to make a change. Here are a few approaches to consider:

  • Triggers – Think about the triggers for your bad habits and consider eliminating the triggers. This at least begins changing your behavior and if nothing else begins to give you some insight into the situations that are facilitating this habit.
  • Not all at one time – Don’t try and fix everything in a day. What I’m really saying is don’t try to conquer Rome until you have laid waste to Venice first. One of the biggest mistakes we make is I’m going to stop all the bad shit, and I am doing it today! This only limits your probability for success and that leads to my final approach.
  • Incremental progress – You took 20 – 30 years to create this not so great habit of yours, and you are going to defeat it in a day. You begin to delude yourself and get all hyped up on David Goggins video’s and you decide I’m done with this shit. Let’s get real about who we are going to do battle with. You don’t want to hear this because we all think we have so much self disciple, but my advice is start small. Begin undermining the beast, bit by bit, step by step, until you are in essence beginning to gain some self control. If you can’t stop a bad habit, at least defer it, start breaking the pattern, begin confusing yourself; remember your taking this thing down by hand, brick by brick. Another incremental technique is to adjust the dosage. Start using less of whatever it is that is fucking you up, and you will not only have some more time on your hands, but you are also chipping away at the beast.

Listen it became a habit because you did something hundreds or thousands of times; all this repetition has made it part of your identify. It has become somewhat powerful and you probably know that. Don’t beat yourself up over it and just accept that you can’t change this behavior, because you can. You didn’t build this habit in a day or week, and you can’t destroy it that quickly, but you can take action.

Namaste

One of life’s greatest pleasures

never stop learning concept on blackboard

We spend a good part of our life looking for satisfaction by acquiring things like bigger homes, expensive cars, and other possessions. Our quest for these things becomes our focus, believing that they will bring us happiness and pleasure. I’m not sure where all of this came from, maybe it is a result of our culture, but it often leads to a misguided approach to life.

As human beings we have an innate need to learn, which leads to self improvement, and yes happiness. For me and so many others, one of life’s greatest pleasures is learning. Think about the times you have been really happy. Maybe this was when you were pursuing a degree, studying for a certification, or learning something from your own studies or work. Unlike acquiring some material possession your pursuit of knowledge can never be taken away from you, it will not erode or decay over time. The pleasure you get by learning doesn’t wear off, but instead provides an infinite source of gratification.

Most of us can agree that goals are a good thing, they provide focus and direction, but make sure that learning is one of your highest priority goals. In fact those other material things are often the result of learning. Sure it’s great to have a nice car, a comfortable home, electronic toys, and whatever else you enjoy possessing. Unfortunately as you focus on attaining these things, once acquired they leave you with a taste for more much like any other addiction. One should also weigh the cost of what you might have to give up to acquire all these things. While learning costs you very little, maybe the cost of the book, and an investment of your time.

Take a few moments today and think back on a time when you were not obsessed with things, but instead spent your time learning about subjects that interested you. Can you think of anything that brought you more pleasure? It is never too late to change the way you think, modify your goals, and focus on the one thing that can bring you great satisfaction, happiness, and pleasure.

The very act of learning about things that interest you opens the door to everything else, creating opportunities go grow and to contribute to this world. Don’t misunderstand me I am not advocating you become a monk; I have material goals, but most of my goals are centered around learning for personal or professional development, and these are the goals that that provide the most pleasure in my life.

Namaste

Exercise is my hobby

We find too many people that view various forms of exercise as something they should do to lose weight or look better, which is fine, but there are many of us who view it as a hobby. When exercise becomes a hobby you no longer dread your workouts in fact you often think of them, looking forward to them. Developing a perspective that you are not exercising to achieve some goal, but instead it is a form of pleasure, provides you with a long term outlook. If I exercise to lose 10 pounds, what happens when I shed the 10 pounds? Maybe I will stop exercising because I have achieved my goal, but if the weight loss was just one of the results of enjoying my hobby, I am more likely to keep pursuing my hobby.

curls guy

I am convinced that exercise has a somewhat negative connotation for many people. They feel they have a limited amount of time that would better be devoted to their job, watching television, eating, drinking, or playing around on their computer, phone, or tablet. I’m not interested in listing all the benefits of exercising versus sitting around doing whatever; this should be rather obvious for most of us. The question is how do we change our perspective from something I feel I should do or dread doing to something I look forward to everyday? Here are a few ways we begin to make that mind shift:

  • consistency becomes habit and habits can be pleasurable. Being resolute in the beginning is one of the keys.
  • results tend to provide encouragement, you begin to think this is providing positive benefits for me, and this makes me want to keep doing it.
  • endorphin’s are released when exercising, providing pleasurable feelings and reducing pain in the body, yet another reason that helps you shift from I have to do this to I want to do this. In fact the mind shift becomes cemented when you find that you don’t feel good unless you have exercised that day.

As you begin to see results, and you realize all the benefits you are getting from exercising, it becomes a habit and as many of us can attest almost an addiction. Don’t be surprised if you go away on vacation and decide you just can’t sit there on the beach, pretty soon your taking a run or walk, and maybe spending some time in the resorts gym. This mind shift begins with consistently performing the activity, and it will become a high priority habit in your life. That habit will grow into a pleasurable hobby that you look forward to and yes reap all the benefits that come with it.

Namaste